It’s been exactly two weeks since Luke Seabrook died in a workplace accident at Nova Scotia Power’s Annapolis Tidal Power Plant.
For his family, this mourning period has been especially painful because of the awful way in which he died.
Seabrook, a 39-year-old commercial diver from Dartmouth, was underwater inspecting the gates controlling the flow of the powerful tides of the Annapolis River, when something went terribly wrong, fast.
“I was told he went down and within one minute he said, ‘Pull me up,’ and they lost communications on the microphone. They didn’t talk to him after that point,” said Garth Seabrook, the man’s younger brother.
Garth Seabrook has been searching for answers since his brother’s death. He has spoken with members of the surface team — the backup diver and a supervisory diver.
Garth Seabrook was told they were helpless, wanting desperately to rescue Seabrook.
“They couldn’t actually pull hard enough to get him out, so they tied him up so he couldn’t go any further. And apparently the secondary diver went to jump in but they would not allow him to because they figured the same thing was going to happen to him, obviously,” Garth Seabrook told CBC News.
He said for safety’s sake, the team had to wait 30 to 45 minutes for the tides to equalize on both sides of the gate. That’s when the backup diver went down.
‘He was violently sucked underneath’
“His depiction of it was the gate was open 16 to 18 inches, my brother was sucked under the gate, but the helmet was too big to fit through, so the helmet stuck on the gate,” said Garth Seabrook.
“The suction, the vacuum underneath was so much that it pulled his helmet and suit apart slightly and his mouth was out in water. I was told that he had two broken ribs and contusions, so obviously he was violently sucked underneath.”
Garth Seabrook has not heard from Nova Scotia Power or from the Nova Scotia Department of Labour. He’s not certain where to assign blame, but he’s troubled by the fact that the gate, though locked in an open position, wasn’t confirmed closed when his brother went down to inspect it.
“They would allow the gravity to lower the gate and then they would walk along and just grab cables and make sure there is slack on the cables. And that was, apparently, their method of checking [to see if the gate is closed],” he said.
“They obviously don’t have a foolproof method of closing the gate which is absolutely insane to me.”
Nova Scotia Power was asked to comment. It provided a statement saying its “thoughts, sympathies and prayers continue to be with the family, and that it is cooperating fully with the Department of Labour investigation.
The Department of Labour has slapped several work orders on the site.
A department spokesperson said orders have been issued for training, employment, maintenance and operations records for both Nova Scotia Power and Paul’s Diving Service Inc.
Work is continuing at the site, except in the area where Seabrook died. The department has issued an assessment order to have a qualified person look at that specific area.
For Seabrook, potential changes came too late. Now his wife of three months is without a husband and his brother has lost his only sibling.
“I’d like to see change, obviously, for the safety of other divers. Someone else’s brother, son, husband would’ve been down there and they would’ve died the exact same way and that shouldn’t be possible,” said Garth Seabrook.